If you have a screened-in porch or flat roof in your home, asphalt shingles won’t cut it. Even with an asphalt roof replacement, a membrane or metal roof is essential for low slope areas. When considering roofing options, two excellent choices stand out: membrane roof systems and their various types. Opting for a membrane roof system proves both cost-effective and commonly utilized in the roofing industry. You’ll find several types of membrane roofs available, each offering unique benefits and suitability to different environments.

By the conclusion of this article, you’ll grasp the three types of roof membranes available, understand the approximate costs associated with installing a membrane roof system, and appreciate the necessity of using a membrane for low slope roofs.

three types of roof membranes for low slope roofs

3 Types Of Roof Membranes For A Flat Or Low Slope Roof

Explore three primary types of roofing membranes: EPDM, TPO, and PVC. Each offers distinct advantages for residential roofs, influencing aesthetics and room protection directly beneath.

EPDM Membrane Roofing

EPDM, a synthetic rubber membrane, is widely used in commercial and medical buildings for its durability. Though primarily commercial, EPDM also finds application in residential roofing.

For areas like bedrooms or living spaces, I advise against using black membrane roofing due to its heat absorption. Instead, consider EPDM for roofs over garages or non-living spaces visible from windows, as black membranes stay cleaner than white ones.

EPDM roofing stands out for its exceptional durability, akin to a bulletproof rubber roof system. With a fully adhered 0.060 thickness, expect a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

Pros & Cons Of EPDM


  • EPDM stands out as the most cost-effective option per square foot for flat or low-sloped roofs. 
  • EPDM roofs boast exceptional durability, typically lasting more than 20 years, making them a reliable long-term investment. 
  • When coupled with polyiso insulation, opting for a white membrane roof can significantly enhance energy efficiency.


  • EPDM’s durability can diminish in harsh environments or as it nears the end of its lifespan.
  • Ballasted EPDM systems offer cost-effectiveness compared to other options, while fully adhered or mechanical systems tend to be pricier than TPO membranes. This makes EPDM a budget-friendly choice for roofing projects, balancing affordability with quality.
  • Many people believe that black flat EPDM roofs lack aesthetic appeal and visual attractiveness.


Tpo Membrane Roofing

TPO, a single-ply white membrane for commercial and residential roofs, differs from EPDM by reflecting heat, not absorbing it. This makes it ideal for enhancing energy efficiency in buildings.

If you’re considering a flat roof or a low-slope dormer for your bedroom, TPO roofing is an excellent choice. It helps maintain cooler indoor temperatures. Alternatively, you can opt for EPDM for non-living spaces. Looking out over your flat roof, the color of the membrane matters more than you think. A white membrane will show dirt faster than black, yet both prevent leaks effectively. Your choice depends on what view you prefer from your window.

While TPO may not match EPDM’s durability, with proper installation, you can still rely on it for up to 25 years.

Pros & Cons Of EPDM


  • This membrane offers excellent durability against ozone, UV rays, and certain chemicals, all at an affordable price. 
  • TPO membranes reflect heat better than EPDM, ideal for roofs over living areas, maintaining cooler indoor temperatures. Their white color reduces sunlight absorption, cutting air conditioning needs and lowering long-term energy costs, a smart choice for eco-friendly homes. 
  • This material resists mold, prevents dirt buildup, and is durable against impacts and punctures. 


  • Achieving durable seams through precise heat welding is essential for long-lasting roof installations. 
  • Certain formulations of the material may deteriorate before reaching the 10-year mark in longevity. 
  • While newer technology offers exciting possibilities, it often comes without a long-established track record of success.

PVC  Membrane Roofing

PVC, a single-ply white membrane, finds extensive use in both commercial and residential roofing applications. Ideal for flat or low-slope roofs over living spaces or bedrooms, PVC offers durability and reliability. PVC and TPO, both white membranes, share similar characteristics despite their different chemical compositions. Their installation processes are also quite similar.

PVC and TPO are both durable options for low slope roofs, with PVC being slightly more established and flexible. A well-installed PVC roof can typically last up to 25 years, similar to TPO roofs in longevity and performance.

Pros & Cons Of PVC


  • Durability is a key feature, expect these roofs to reliably serve for over 20 years. 
  • PVC roofs are ideal for warehouses and manufacturing sites due to their resistance to chemicals. They also slow and resist ignition, and can help extinguish fires when the source is removed. 
  • Eco-friendly and recyclable, this material efficiently manages heating and cooling. It reflects sunlight, reducing urban heat. Even after long use, it remains recyclable.


  • Cost is a consideration with PVC roofing; it’s generally pricier per square foot than EPDM and TPO. 
  • Installation – Re-roofing requires removing the old roof first, adding labor costs to the job due to its intensive nature. 
  • PVC roofing can become brittle in cold climates, potentially cracking or shattering when walked on during freezing temperatures.

a person installing a membrane roof

How Much Is The Cost Of Membrane Roofing?

When considering the cost of a membrane roof, several factors come into play. One critical factor involves the type of insulation utilized beneath the membrane. Choosing the right insulation can significantly impact overall project expenses and long-term energy efficiency

When selecting a roofing membrane, it’s crucial to consider both cost and effectiveness. Thicker insulation provides better insulation but comes at a higher price. The size of the roof also significantly impacts the overall cost and installation complexity. These factors influence your choice and budget planning significantly.

For smaller membrane roofs, aiming to budget between $14.00 to $17.00 per square foot is advisable. Larger projects can see costs reduced to approximately $12.00 per square foot. Commercial projects often benefit from significantly lower costs per square foot.

a membrane roof system with detailed texture and seams

Why Opt For A Membrane Roof System?

If your roof or any part of it has a pitch of less than 2:12, it falls under the category of low slope. Waterproofing is crucial since water drains slower on flat or low slope roofs compared to steep ones.

Installing asphalt shingles on roofs with pitches below 2:12 isn’t recommended due to potential water retention issues outlined in manufacturer instructions and building codes. For low slope or flat roofs, opting for a membrane or metal roof system is crucial to effectively prevent leaks.

When choosing a roofing contractor, avoid anyone suggesting shingles for low slope roofs. This approach risks future problems. Opt instead for materials specifically designed for low slope applications. This ensures longevity and reduces maintenance needs over time.


Selecting the appropriate membrane roof system for your low slope or flat roof is essential for ensuring durability and long-term performance. EPDM, TPO, and PVC each offer unique benefits and are suitable for different environments and aesthetic preferences. Understanding these options allows you to make an informed decision that balances cost, energy efficiency, and maintenance needs. Proper installation and choosing a reliable roofing contractor are also critical to achieving the best results. By considering these factors, you can ensure your low slope roof remains leak-free and effective for many years.


  • What are the three main types of roof membranes for low slope roofs?
    The three main types of roof membranes for low slope roofs are EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin), and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). Each offers unique benefits and is suited to different environments and aesthetic preferences. 
  • How long do membrane roofs typically last?
    The lifespan of membrane roofs varies by type. EPDM roofs generally last 25-30 years, TPO roofs up to 25 years, and PVC roofs can also last up to 25 years with proper installation and maintenance. 
  • What are the cost considerations for installing a membrane roof system?
    Costs for membrane roof systems depend on factors like the type of membrane, insulation used, and roof size. On average, smaller membrane roofs cost between $14.00 to $17.00 per square foot, while larger projects may see costs around $12.00 per square foot. Commercial projects often benefit from lower costs per square foot. 
  • Why is a membrane roof system preferred for low slope roofs over asphalt shingles?
    Membrane roof systems are preferred for low slope roofs because they provide better waterproofing. Asphalt shingles are not recommended for pitches below 2:12 due to potential water retention issues. Membrane systems are specifically designed to handle slower water drainage and prevent leaks effectively. 
  • How does the color of a membrane roof affect energy efficiency?
    Energy efficiency of a membrane roof can be greatly impacted by its color. White membranes, such as TPO and PVC, reflect sunlight, reducing heat absorption and lowering cooling costs. Black membranes, like some EPDM options, absorb more heat, which can be beneficial in colder climates but less efficient for cooling in warmer areas.